Serbian nationalist politician and president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj will run in the spring 2017 presidential election after the SRS made the decision to nominate him on May 15.
Even though Seselj is well known for creating disorder and sabotaging the work of the parliament by using vulgar rhetoric, his party managed to take 22 seats in the April 24 early parliamentary election, after losing all its seats in 2014. The SRS’s success came thanks to the March 31 decision of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague to acquit Seselj of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the run-up to the 2014 general election, Seselj was still in jail in The Hague and could not campaign for his party.
Seselj’s main political principles are radical, as the name of his party indicates. He advocates anti-democratic principles including unequal human rights for vulnerable groups, like homosexuals.
Seselj is also against Serbia’s further EU integration and in favour of closer ties with Russia which is, according to the SRS, important for Serbia’s fight to maintain its territorial integrity, namely control over Kosovo. Russia continues to veto Kosovo's entry to the UN.
Seselj was one of Serbia’s most popular politicians in the early 1990s thanks to his idea of “Greater Serbia”, which stipulated that all Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia should live in a single state. This idea is still one of his main political arguments.
Seselj was accused of war crimes against Croats and Muslims in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina in 1991-1993 during the Yugoslavian civil war, though he was recently acquitted.
According to Tanjug’s May 15 report, Seselj is likely to run against current president Tomislav Nikolic, Social Democratic Party of Serbia leader Rasim Ljajic and Socialist Party of Serbia leader Ivica Dacic in the 2017 presidential race.
Nikolic announced in April that he will run for president next year, saying he will still be needed by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.
"I think that Vucic needs Nikolic," Nikolic said, expressing confidence that in three or four years Vucic will be able to govern without his support.
Seselj formed the SRS in 1991 together with a group of nationalists that included Nikolic. However, both Nikolic and Vucic split from the SRS in 2008 to form the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which unlike the SRS is in favour of EU integration.
Nikolic defeated Boris Tadic in May 2012 and got a five-year presidential mandate. Tadic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), had been president of the country since 2004. He left the DS and formed the Socialist Democratic Party (SDS) in 2014.
Ljajic has been part of all the governments since Serbia’s democratic changes in 2000. He recently said that he believes that he will win more votes than many think.
"I have both feet on the ground, I am aware of my chances and my position, but I think that I have the possibility of running [for president] and I believe that I will win more votes than many people think," Ljajic said, local media reported.
Dacic has also announced he will run for president next year. Dacic’s SPS was a junior partner of Vucic’s SNS before the election, but it is not clear whether the party will join the new government. He has said many times that the logical next step in his political career would be to become president, as he already served as minister of interior affairs and prime minister, and is currently minister of foreign affairs.
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